Gardening 2014

Some notes to help me next year…

This year I actually remembered to get organised for growing things in the garden. I normally forget until about July by which time it’s too late. This year I tried the following

  • Random flower seed packets
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Garlic
  • Strawberries
  • Chillies
  • Tomatoes
  • Sunflowers
  • Onions

I also accidentally grew a great many nasturtium plants which tried taking over the entire garden. Somehow some more have come back.

Of all the plants I tried growing, the chillies and tomatoes are doing the best. The tomatoes didn’t need to be kept in a greenhouse, and the chillies probably don’t either. The beans are doing OK, but the amount of effort required to keep the snails off them and the relatively low yield makes them not worth the effort.

The dog ate all the garlic and made a nest in the strawberry patch so they were a bust. Next year’s strawberries will be better guarded from unexpected pests.

The peas were massacred in a night by snails, as were the sunflowers. The onions did surprisingly well considering I forgot about them and the snails ate all their leaves.

Nothing ate the tomato plant, but I am wary of that thing. It’s all viney and looks slightly sentient, I expect to find the cat tangled in it one morning. Something tried to eat the chilli plant, but then gave up after making a hole in a leaf so maybe next year chillies and tomatoes will be good to plant around the walls where the snails live.

Snails don’t like salt…

There was also some success in growing lavendar and rosemary.

I think next year’s plan will be more tomatoes, more flowers and pots of onions. The strawberries can live over winter in their box but in the spring I’ll thin out some runners and grow them in pots away from the dog.

Used rat bedding makes good growing medium for plants, apart from the uneaten seeds germinating.

All Day Breakfast – IN A TIN

Not as terrible as it looks

Here’s a winning idea – put a fried breakfast into a tin! All the benefits of a hearty breakfast, without the effort of having to actually cook anything.

You can almost taste it… beans, sausage, funny round things and 61% of your daily allowance of salt, all mixed up together to provide 450 calories of energy – that’s a lot of energy if you were to burn it all in one go, it’d probably blow the walls off your house.

Anyway, let’s delve inside this tin of wonder to see what’s in there. It’ll be a fun journey, we’ll get to play a fun game of “recognise the food”.

First, let’s just check the tin out to see what it says…

Look at all that canned goodness!

OK, in this tin is more food than some people get to eat in a week. Unfortunately there is also more salt in here than a cup of sea water. Surprisingly low in saturated fat, and a nice pile of sugar to offset the salt.

So what does it look like with the tin opened? Does it bear any resemblance to the image on the tin (really, if you expect it to I bet you’re someone who has never bought food from McDonalds)

Rustic 'greasy spoon' cafe shot

Yes, my cooker is really that dirty, yes I probably do need to clean it. If you’re my landlord this is not the pristine new oven you had delivered three months ago.

So what do we have in here then? We need some sort of hint…

OK, so in there are some beans, sausage, button mushrooms, chopped pork, egg nuggets, bacon and cereal. Well I suppose that qualifies as breakfast then. I wonder if there’s a more expensive version that contains a cup of tea as well?

It's breakfast time!

Yum. Words cannot describe how appetising this looks. Words also cannot describe how it tastes… or smells.

Incidentally, I can’t take those pentaprazole┬átablets for two weeks until after I’ve had a H Pylori┬átest. Maybe eating this will kill off anything living inside me!

It tastes "meaty"

I think this is “meat”. It had a vague porky flavour, so could be anything from pig to human child.

Is it a turd?

This brown, knobbly matter also tasted “meaty” and had a reconstituted-from-pureed-sloppy-protein texture. I think we’ll just move on…

Err... I think our cat had two of these once...

I have no idea… it tasted… eggy. But not fried-eggy, more scotch eggy. Yes, it had the exact same taste and texture as a cheap scotch egg.

So there you have it; 450 calories of sugary, salty gloop in a tin. I think I’ll go and work it off in the garden now.

And you thought a $5 shake was expensive

Try this curry…

Thinking I probably didn’t want to spend the next morning explaining to my bank why I was daft enough to click “checkout” I removed the vindaloo and made do with the others. They were nice though, I’ll be using this place again – it was restaurant quality, rather than half-burnt brown slop in a metal tin that takeaways like to serve up.

Apocalypse Food – Army ration pack from 2001

A number of years ago I was given the remains of an army ration pack that I could take on a camping trip I was doing at the time. The pack consisted of several freeze-dried items with all the texture and flavour of wall filler. I think I took a look at the stuff, put it in a cardboard box and went to the local shop to buy some better food for the trip.

Fast forward to today when I was looking for something to eat at dinner, and no matter how many times I opened the fridge it failed to be full of nice things to eat. After rooting around my shelving for something edible I found two potential candidates – a tin of Tesco stew, and a green packet of something. Putting the tin back … way back out the way (I’m not that hungry!) I decided to see what the stuff in the green bag was.

2001 pasta milanaise ration pack
2001 pasta milanaise ration pack

Turns out it’s the army ration pack I was given all those years ago, proudly bearing a prepared date of 24th October 2001. An inspection of the packet revealed it was probably intact and unlikely to contain anything it shouldn’t, so I ripped it open and added it to some water. I’d like to tell you the resulting food was nice, edible and just as good as the day it was packed… but I’d be lying.

Imagine if you will thick congealed gravy – the type made by people who can’t make gravy. And sticking out of that bits of slippy pasta, with the whole thing having a curious sheen to it. The smell is not unpleasant, but at the same time not exactly inviting, and the flavour… it was hard to describe, but I think it might have tasted like tomatoes.

Having eaten it all, I can say I am most definitely not hungry any more. For added satisfaction, every time I burp I get to taste it again. I wonder if eating the contents of my hoover would remove the taste.

Skool Dinners

If you have children of your own, or work in a school then you’ll probably already know this. For the rest of you, cast your mind back to school. Specifically cast your mind back to dinner time.

I used to eat sandwiches at dinner time in secondary school, either in my form room or stood outside in the cold playground. My memories of actual school dinners are from primary school, way back in the 80s; we’d line up outside the hall waiting to go in, looking at the dinner board to see what today’s food would be. This was traditional school dinner, the type served by stern looking women from big wheely contraptions made out of stainless steel. You got a plate, it was filled with some sort of cheap tubular meat, a blob of mash, some things that were once peas and off you went for the gravy. No turkey twizzlers or chips here.

And you had to eat it all before being allowed to leave. And don’t talk too much, it’s eating time, not talking time. And definitely no taking your food outside.

Fast forward to the present day. At the designated feeding time, our students are released and they have quite a large number of options. There is a “fast food” canteen where they can buy a slice of pizza to chew on while running around the playground, or they can buy a tub of pasta to spill on the stairs inside the school. For students with a more leisurely attitude to life they can go into the canteen and get real food, or a sandwich, or some more of the pasta-in-a-tub. Our year 11s have their own social area that has its own mini canteen, so they don’t need to queue up with the little kids. And yes, there’s a bunch of students who would rather waste their money on a box of jaffa cakes from Tesco each day rather than a real dinner (but I used to do that too, and I seem to have turned out quite well).

And the real food is actually recognisable. Those of you who go to a canteen that caters for adults are eating the same sort of food. We’re not talking five star restaurant food here, but it looks, smells and tastes quite nice. The sandwiches look like something you could buy from Tesco and are fresh every day.

It’s really quite pleasant, even the mad kids seem to calm down a bit at dinner time. I guess it’s hard to cause havoc when you’re eating. I also suspect that for many of our kids, it’s the only decent meal they get each day, such is the home life of some of our students.

Dinner time is also a reasonably orderly affair – as orderly as getting 1500+ students fed can be. They know to line up tidily, there’s no unnecessary shoving or pushing, nobody queue jumps and everyone is free to sit and eat without being distracted.

The main difference though is that it’s a more relaxed atmosphere. Kids do actually like to sit in little groups and talk about stuff while eating. They save the running about and shouting till after their stomachs are full. There is a definite difference between morning registration and afternoon registration, but that’s the topic of a future post.

McDonalds’ Festive Pie

A McDonald's Festive Pie
A McDonald's Festive Pie

Christmas must be here, Mcdonalds are doing a “festive” version of their notoriously hot pie things. After picking Amy up from the station we stopped off at the local lard-burger and I got one of these.

They’re reasonably edible, being covered in sugar, full of sugar and probably deep fried (yes, they are) in sugar too. And oddly salty. The filling is an odd mix of something that tastes exactly like mincemeat if it were made by aliens, and some yellow gloop that might be custard, if by “custard” you mean “yellow gloop full of sugar”.

If you’ve not guessed, it’s full of sugar. Do not eat if you even vaguely suspect you’re diabetic… you will die. Also do not eat if intolerant to salt, or where high levels of saturated fat might kill you.

According to McDonalds own menu website, this tasty treat contains:

  • 340 Calories (17% GDA)
  • 20g fat (30% GDA) (4g Saturated fat – 18% GDA)
  • 0.5g salt (10% GDA)
  • 18g sugar (19% GDA)
  • 1g fibre (4% GDA)

It’s clever they can cram so much “stuff” into a bar of food that can be eaten in three mouthfulls, and leaves you with absolutely no feeling of satisfaction. It’s like a meal in a bar.

Ungodly freaks of nature found in my kitchen

If Cthulhu made veg
If Cthulhu made veg

Looking like something that’s crawled straight out of an HP Lovecraft novel, I found these living in the back of my veg basket in the kitchen. Once upon a time they were harmless baby new potatoes, destined to be brutally boiled in water and chewed to pieces.

And then! subject to nothing more than ambient daylight, a quantity of dog hair and cosmic background radiation they sprouted quite naturally mutated beyond all recognition into warped vegetables that Cthulhu itself would be proud of.

It seems the potatoes sprouted, using up all the energy in the main potato and then attempted to root into the air, put out some shoots and generally make a jolly good stab at turning into potato bushes of their very own. Then things went wrong and survival mode took over, causing smaller potatoes to be formed in some crazy sprouting fractal type mess. The result – potatoes for pixies.

Maybe I should leave them in a dish of water to see what happens.